If you're a fan of the Coen Brothers film "O Brother Where Art Thou," you might recognize the name Chris Thomas King. You'd certainly recognize him if you saw him--he played bluesman Tommy Johnson, and contributed a good bit of music to that stellar soundtrack.
Well, he's out with a new album, and I can't recommend it highly enough, for a couple of reasons. For starters, it's just solid blues in the tradition of Son House and Howlin' Wolf, even though his voice isn't quite as ragged.
But it's the subject matter of his songs in this album that make this album so powerful. See, King is a New Orleanian, and this is his first album since Katrina, and it is infused with the wreck and ravage of that storm. The loss comes through in the powerful "Baptized in Dirty Water," and he calls out President Bush in "Faith." The review of the album at emusic put it this way:
In "Faith," the song's narrator clings to a rooftop as bodies float by and he realizes that President Bush is in a plane over New Orleans in the same instant, and it is a powerful moment that literally defines the notion of differing perspectives. Does he really care, the narrator wonders. Rise deals with loss, death and the hope for rebirth in mostly hushed tones, and while many still think of King as primarily a blues artist, the album is really closer to a kind of pop gospel outing, only stripped of much of the certainty and joy that gospel usually conveys.
I've always had an affinity for gospel music, which is odd since it was anathema to my religious upbringing--Jehovah's Witnesses had their own songs, which were fairly stolid. But gospel moves me, even now when I'm not a believer, in ways I can't even begin to define. And there are songs on this album that make me (almost) want to believe again.
You can check out samples of the album at the emusic link above--and you can join the service for ten bucks a month, which I highly recommend--or you can buy the album through Amazon or some other retailer. But check it out. If you love blues, you won't be sorry.